Friday, December 17, 2010

The First Of Many Last Lists

If the title is confusing, join the club. I was trying to find a way to beat the usual "best and worst" lists that seem to pop-up everywhere. And I believe I did this last year or the year before. Whatever, here's the first of the last year. (Oh, that's where the blog title came from).


1. Tell the Boss to stop hitting on your girlfriend before you hit him.
2. Try and have an intelligent conversation.
3. If you're a guy, stay away from the hot, young & drunk young.
4. If you're a female, the above doesn't apply to you. For many reasons. Talk amongst yourselves.
5. Show up an hour early. Why? See #3.
6. Tell ghost stories.
7. Forget that EVERYONE has some sort of recording device at their fingertips.
8. Drunk Tweet. (Has somewhat replaced drunk dialing).
9. Drunk Text. (See above).
10. Start drinking at 3pm for an 8pm party. (See #7 above).
11. Mix beer with wine with tequila.
12. Tell someone they look very familiar. Only to realize they are your boss' boss.
13. Ask someone who they are with at your party––when they work in the same place as you. On the same account/project.
14. Talk someones head off who you have never talked to before. (There must be a reason you two never talked before. Sometimes a very good one that you may never know).
15. Compare your party to the party at your last job.
16. Bring someone you're interested in but haven't sealed the deal with yet. Chances are, you may not leave together.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

That Time Thing Again

My Daughter came over this morning because she had a dream I died. (This just in––I didn't).

Kaity was so upset that she had to see me. It happened in the morning––her dream, not my death––and it was so vivid and fresh in her mind she wanted to hug and kiss me and tell me how much she loved me. Kaity is my only Daughter. And for those of you who are Daddy's Little Girl or have a little girl, you know that special bond between a Dad and Daughter. Well, it's that way with Kaity & me. She was going to quit college and stay home and take care of me along with her Mother when I had cancer and was going through hell, I mean the treatments.

I've been fortunate to spend a lot of time with Kaity, whether it be through sports or school or school sports. We also talk about her job and how much we both live what we do for a living. I think they call it passion. She has an over-abundance of it, just like her Dad. We both get caught up in the thought and action of making a difference. And lose track of time. I've been doing that again. Working myself to death. Can't seem to bring myself to say "no". Want to create the next best thing, whatever that may be. It used to be I dreaded having to go to work after my cancer battle, having to survive a hostile work environment that featured way too many immature and selfish people.

Now, I have my creative soul back. I have an environment that is focused on positive energy, working hard and playing hard. I have people to work with that I respect and respect me back. Of course, there will always be bumps in the road. And life has a way of slapping you in the face or giving you a wet willie to help you put things in perspective. Our time is so precious, I know that I get caught up in the things that are really not that important. I forget that I still have dreams I have to chase.

While I'm still alive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mo' Than Movember

My Son, Travis, is growing a moustache for Movember, National Prostate cancer Month.

Now you've read––or not––my post on Breast cancer Awareness Month. It was a rant that basically called for recognition for all cancers all the time. So while it might seem a bit hypocritical to support those with prostate cancer, tough shit. I've lost 2 family members to breast cancer so I get it, unfortunately. I'm a 2-time cancer survivor myself. And right now, my Dad's prostate cancer is back. Again. And his prostate is already gone thanks to that sneaky, rat-bastard, cancer.

Travis is raising money in honor of his Grandfather. Travis has really grown up in the last 2-3 years, finding himself and maturing in ways that make parents proud. And relieved we didn't screw it all up. His 'stash is helping bring a smile and a chuckle at his '70's porn star look––but also bringing awareness to an illness that hits way too close to home. Travis David––middle name after his Grandfather––is doing what he can do in a big showing. He's got it all over his face. You can check it out here.

I'm growing mine––in a multi-colored fashion––to support my Dad. Who told me right before we walked into the LA Auto Show that "the cancer's back". He also told me he didn't want it to ruin my day but he wanted me to know and hear it from him, or as he put it, "But I wanted to tell you." Funny thing is, I remember when he told me the first time he had cancer. I hadn't had my turn with it yet. My reaction this time was much more peaceful, as strange as that seems. I know that life is one day at a time and cancer doesn't play fair or have favorites. And we've beat it before. So I too, wear a reminder on my face that cancer is killer.

And more than just a month for awareness.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Part Of My Network

I pulled this from Being Cancer, a blogger who has built an awesome cancer community support system. I only hope I can deal with death with such dignity as this person below.

La Cootina
aka The Coot, aka Aunt Crankypants. I am the mistress of Villa DeCay, and dogmom of Miss Molly. I have Multiple Myeloma, a blood and bone cancer. I am trying very hard to be the heroine of my story instead of a whiny crybaby. I succeed about half the time.

Dear Friends,
Having enrolled with hospice this week has changed my perspective. I’ve been thinking about signing off the blog for quite awhile, and this feels like the right time. I can’t believe it finally happened…but I really don’t have much more to say! Oh, I’ll miss ranting over major and minor annoyances, but you deserve better. My readers — family, friends, and friends I haven’t met — have kept me going for more than two years. I never expected to be here this long, and I certainly never expected to find such a warm, caring community, especially in MM patients and caregivers.
Technology continues to amaze me: this little white box on my table, this seemingly inert piece of electronics, has connected me to an entire network of smart, kind, thoughtful people. Your good wishes and support have meant more to me than I could have imagined. I will leave the blog up for awhile, on the chance that there’s anything helpful here for newly diagnosed MM patients. I will continue to read and occasionally comment on your blogs. But out of concern and respect for other MM patients and their loved ones, I’m going on the next leg of this MM journey on my own.
I have been touched and privileged to share my story and get to know you. I wish all of you great joy, peace, and most of all, good health. Fill your hearts with gratitude and forgiveness until there is no room for anything else. Be good to yourselves and each other.
The Coot

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why The Long Wait?

I have putting off posting for a while because. (Sounds like an answer we all gave as a kid––"why did you give the cat a haircut, Greg?" "Because").

Here are my "becauses".

Because I've been in a "quote" writing style lately and I'm "all quote marked out".
Because I've been extra cynical. And sarcastic. And a nasty bastard.
Because I have too many things I want to write.
Because I just had another cancerversary and I've already posted about that once. Or twice.
Because I'm still having bouts with chemo brain.
Because computers can't write for me. Yet.
Because of daylight savings.
Because my dog ate my computer.
Because I can't fit it all in 140 characters.
Because life has been so great lately.
Because I don't want to repeat myself.
Because I don't want to repeat myself.
Because I don't want to repeat myself.
Because I want to write a post in Spanish.
Because I'm having to rewrite the document that the client revised––revising their own words. Again.
Because I was waiting for pigs to fly.
Because I was waiting for a monkey to jump out of my butt.
Because I was waiting for money to grow on trees.
Because the Lakers haven't lost since my last post. (Oh crap, now I did it).
Because my Halloween Party has dominated my life outside of work.
Because bullshit walks and money talks.
Because three years after my last cancer treatment, I've been wondering about if the cancer will come back.
Because I'm making a comeback. (Insert ridiculous, unattainable and fantastical comeback here).
Because people need me more than my blog needs me.
Because I promise the next post will have a video, a few links and a picture of Big Foot.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chasing Normal

I'm coming up on an important anniversary. It will be 3 years since my last treatment next week.

As I was saying to Mom on her last visit, it sometimes feels as if the whole "cancer thing" never happened. Then I try to swallow, feel the hole in my stomach that's still there and look in the mirror and see how quickly I've aged since being diagnosed with Head & Neck cancer. Three years later, I'm just now getting back to a comfortable weight––I lost almost 50 pounds––and starting to feel like myself again. Sort of.

I've had this conversation with my Doctors and other cancer survivors over the last few years, trying to understand and get to "normal". When I was working with the VA at my last job, I got to talk to the Doctors about this at length. The discussion was in regards to military personnel coming back home from the current theaters and trying to adjust to every day life. Their "normal" changed dramatically while serving in the field in the Middle East. Normal for them is NOT brushing your teeth every day, not being able to take a shower for weeks and always wondering when you're going to take a bullet or get hit by an enemy you sometimes can't see. Your habits, perspective and decisions are altered forever for most, unfortunately. Normal becomes anything but normal.

The hardest part of recovery is managing the expectations of others. Your family wants you to be like you were before. Your job demands not only a return to the performer you were before your illness, but expects you to outperform yourself. After all, it's a what-have-you-done-for-lately (cue Paula Abdul) kind of world. I make my living with my brain. My title of Creative Director brings a certain amount of pressure and expectation that I'm all-creative, all the time. And I've always put more pressure on myself than others have––I believe because of the many, many years I was a competitive athlete. I used to chase perfection. Chase the great American Dream. Aspire to be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). But that nearly killed me.

Time to stop chasing and just live.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've been away from the keyboard for a few days while my family came to visit. My Mom and my Cousin spent three days with us last week. It was the first time my Mom has seen me since recovering from cancer. It was the first time I'd seen my Cousin in about 7 years.

It was a great visit. It was also a reminder how important family is to all of us. We all have some sort of family unit, which takes on many shapes and forms. And that type of diversity is a GOOD thing, no matter what your beliefs, traditions and practices may be. I say this because we have lived in the DC area for 16 years, away from all of our extended family and have come to rely on each other for so much support. My family is the most important thing in my life.

I've always desired to have a close knit family, one that enjoys each other's company––most of the time, 'cause 100% of bliss, happiness and getting along is TOTALLY out of the question––and above all else, understands that love is the eternal bond no matter what the circumstances. My family means everything to me, and as a cancer survivor, that love is what pulled me through to recovery. The love from those far away. And the love that was and is, close by.

This is somewhat of an interesting post for me, as a member of our family passed away suddenly as we all we're just feeling so good about spending time together. So it is with a heavy heart I write this somewhat somber post, dedicated to La Familia. I treasure the time I have with my family. It can be taken away in an instant and an excruciating family time/moment can seem like a lifetime. But I do believe in one major factor that is at the center of any family, no matter what your definition is of "family".

Love fuels the family. Family is love.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Great Thing About cancer Blogs

Since my post "The Scary Things About cancer Blogs" was, well, somewhat scary I thought I'd share the good stuff.

I've been fortunate to have many friends. But like the days on the calendar, friends can come and go depending on where you are in life. Never in a million years did I think I would EVER live on the East Coast. (I've said this before and I'll say it again, after 16 years on the EC I still feel out of place and get more stares than I ever did in L.A.). Distance across the terrain equals distance across friendships that were formed face-to-face, not tweet-to-tweet. And while Skype, video sharing websites, IM and other Interweb stuff is great to stay in touch, there's a lot more to friendship than just touching a keypad.

This was never more true when one of my oldest friends, Tim, found me on the wire. Tim and I met in the First Grade at Holy Trinity Elementary School. To this day, Tim is the smartest person I know. How? When he was a Junior in High School, he didn't attend school enough to "qualify" to pass the 11th Grade. (Tim, if you're reading I won't tell anyone why in case your Mom reads this). But he did have all A's. Yep. Aced just about every test, knew the material inside and out and could outsmart just about every Brother at our school. (By Brother, I mean the Franciscans). They thought they had him, just like they thought they had me the year before when I informed the school I was transferring. (That's another post).

I hadn't talked to Tim in at least 16 years. And when we did, it was as if we had never stopped. We have been through a lot together. Helped raise each other, actually. We lived a couple blocks from each other for many years and did something together every day. And when our friends changed, as they often do when we get older, Tim and I still stayed close. It went from Greg, Tim, Danny and Robert to Greg, Tim, Ben and Ray until I left for DC those 16 years ago. So hearing a familiar voice from someone who has watched my hair go from Red to Grey, knows way too much info on my past and still is around to talk about the old and the new days ahead was a great feeling.

Who says the Internet is impersonal?

Monday, October 4, 2010

cancer Awareness Month?

It's been almost three years since my last treatment.

Because of living one day at a time, the thought of seeing three years down the road was somewhat distant and some even thought not possible. cancer is still thought of as a "death sentence" in many ways by many people. And while we are "celebrating" Breast cancer Awareness Month in October, it makes me somewhat angry. Now before you start thinking, "what an asshole!", let me explain and give a little background.

I have lost two Sisters-In-Law, a Step-Father and a Grandfather to cancer. All of them from different cancers. They didn't all pass away the same day, month or year. My Wife is a skin cancer survivor. Me, head & neck and skin cancer as well. We didn't "wait" to get cancer so we could bring awareness to this killer disease. Now I'm sure some of you are still not seeing the point, which is this: ALL cancers kill. EVERY DAY is cancer awareness for survivors, family members of survivors and those who will be diagnosed as I write this post.

I have done work for Susan G. Komen. I have donated my creative talents--be that as they may--to fight breast cancer. I did pro-bono work for NBCC, a great organization. So I'm not the insensitive bastard I may be coming across here in this writing. I'm more interested in making every day cancer awareness day. Every day HIV/AIDS awareness. We have to stop thinking about these things only when they do hit home. Because they will, unfortunately, hit all of us directly or indirectly in our life. Or will it?

It's up to us to stay aware and take action every day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Am I?

(Breaking away from my usual post today. Because I can).

Am I stronger because of cancer?
Am I smarter because of cancer?
Am I nicer?
Am I a bigger pain in the ass?
Am I a better Husband?
Am I more aware of my faults?
My strengths?
My good & bad habits?
Am I a better listener?
Am I a better writer?
Am I the person I thought I would be?
Am I ever gonna grow up?
Am I oblivious?
Am I obvious?
Am I the same as I ever was?
Am I still young?
Am I old enough to know better but young and dumb enough to try it anyway?
Am I fooling myself?
Am I the kind of person you want in your corner?
Am I the kind of person my higher power expects me to be?
I do know what I am.
I am blessed to live today.
I am.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Different Kind Of Glow

It's been almost three years ago to the day that I started radiation for the tumor on the right side of my jaw.

I know. It doesn't seem like that long ago. Yet sometimes it feels as if it never happened--and also like it was just yesterday I started treatments. I still have daily reminders that are visible, as well as visible only to me. Like what? I have a nice smooth neck with a facial hairline that magically doesn't need a trim. (If you call radiation "magic"). I don't have to shave every day--the facial hair has become somewhat glacial in growing. If you read this blog often, you know the deal with my saliva. And because of the glands being compromised, I now have acid reflux--which is the only thing I take medication for, I'm proud to write. And I'm extremely proud of the fact that with so many radiation treatments--35, to be exact--that my skin and whole body isn't glowing like a Homer Simpson-induced, nuclear reaction.

Three years IS a long time when you're faced with death. I often think how we humans would act if we knew when we were going to die. Or at least knew we didn't have much time. Because the fact of the matter is, we all cheat, abuse and waste time. We don't take enough time to live in the moment. Yeah, I know. Our world is all about the clock, the weekend, the good times we are going to have. The time we count until we're over the current project deadline. The time it takes to get to and from work. (OK, enough about time. Seems to be my favorite subject matter for this blog).

I had lunch with a friend the other day whom I hadn't seen in years. They commented on how well I looked but also on how they could see what the cancer did to me. It aged me. Made me look like someone else, not Greg--at least to me. I especially see it in pictures, which I break down into "bc and ac" which is before cancer and after cancer. But lately, I've also seen something else that hasn't been there for a while--a smile in my eyes, in my soul and in my heart.

A glow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What To Eat

Three years (almost) after chemo, radiation and surgeries, I'm not having to worry about my weight. Or should I say, "other" people can stop worrying about my weight.

In talking with my friend, Stephanie, the subject of eating after head & neck cancer has come up--which it quite often does with people I talk to nowadays. And that's more than cool by me. Because while eating can still be a chore, I actually look forward to having something to eat without having to dissect the food before it goes into my mouth. You see, it's like this in the simplest way I can put it: I had head & neck cancer, which is NOT throat cancer but is still in the same region. The radiation was adjusted each and every time--35 times but who's counting--so that the damage to my insides was somewhat mitigated. Which means I have about 25-30% of my normal capacity to produce saliva since the radiation AND chemo did some damage. I can't gulp down a 40 anymore. Opening wide is not an option, as my jaw still hurts. My taste buds have been compromised as well, so things to this day still taste different and can change from meal to meal--for example, I can now taste the ingredients of ketchup--and often do. Add to that the total change in my eating habits--no red meat, no white bread/flour (when I can help it), no pork, no acidic foods--and I pretty much need to know the menu before I eat anything. That's the short story.

Long term? Today is the long term. That's all we really have. I lost sight of that MAIN point at my last job so I left for another job. I'm taking control of my life back because after all, I'm the one who had to live with a feeding tube in my stomach, go through the pure hell of treatments and push through the lack of energy, lack of strength and constant attacks on my body these last 3 years. So what I put into my body is taking care of me today and hopefully into a long lifetime of tomorrows. And will allow Teresa and I to be just ourselves after all these years of being Mom & Dad.(Which, of course, we love and always will). So now what?

It's almost lunchtime. Time to figure out what I'm going to eat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Do I Know?

I just reconnected with a family friend who I love dearly. (That's for another post, Annie).

She had sent me some information about cancer--very helpful and most of it I'm already doing and then some--that got me thinking about what happened to me about a year ago. I had been writing this blog for myself, mainly, and also for anyone who cared to know about me and my thoughts. I never thought about it "getting picked up" by others in the blogosphere. Until I received an email from CR Magazine and how they wanted to talk to me about my blog. Really? Me? CR Magazine is published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the world's oldest and largest professional organization devoted to cancer research. (Note the word "devoted". Nice). And they wanted permission to interview me and publish one of my blog posts.

The writer in me was flattered. The cancer patient in me was humbled. The voice inside my head said, "yeah, baby". They asked me which was my favorite post. I told them the "last one I get to write." (Yeah, there was about 5 seconds of silence on the other end. Just a little gallows humor. Keeps me smiling and not taking myself too seriously). She said "you don't have a favorite?" It's like trying to pick your favorite kid--if you have more than one--you just can't do that. (Not because they might find out they're Daddy's fave). Because each post I write is energized by a moment in the day, a look on someones face or a milestone in my life. And many other special reasons.

A year later, I'm not sure if I feel better because I know more about cancer or because I can't FEEL any cancer in my body--I posted about this before--or because people like NCI, AACR and StandUp2Cancer are doing something about the millions who have to deal with cancer every day of their life. What do I know?

I know there's more good in this life than we know.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Table Dancing

Now before you go thinking I was either a participant or witness, let me tell you I've never seen/been either. That I can remember.

This has to do with the tables at Charles Town Races & Slots in beautiful West Virginia. My Wife, Teresa, and 2 long lost friends, Rosie & Marty, headed to try our hands at gambling over the Labor Day weekend. Regardless of the outcome, I thought, a drive through some of the most beautiful country in the USA on a gorgeous day was just the thing to do. We packed up the cooler with some adult beverages and headed off to God's Country. And tried to bring some luck with us.

I had never been to any gambling establishment on the East Coast. Las Vegas has always been my favorite place to go--and when you live in LA, the trips get more frequent and addictive. But LV is a place where you can do a lot more than gamble--people watch, catch a lounge act or two, stuff your face for a reasonable price and people watch--and you feel the action even if you're not the one creating the vibe. Charles Town is NOT like that--no lounge acts, one casino, an OTB--and is a very different mix of people. So I still got to people watch. And watch them look/stare at me with my long hair and my group that looked a little out of place.

It used to be that if I was losing at the Black Jack tables, I would keep "paying the casino's rent" and chase good money after bad. Nothing where I'd lose the mortgage payment but thanks God I had Teresa with me to keep me in check--most of the time. This time, I was on my own as I circled the tables like a vulture looking for it's next meal. $50 tables. $25 tables. WTF? Where are the $5 and $10 tables? This is high stakes stuff. And I'm not going to play poker. No way, not in this small town with some locals who just wait for "tourists" like me to drain my pockets. So I looked for the best table. And finally, I found a $15 one. So I set my cash limit. And 15 minutes later, I was out of chips. Bad players, an extremely lucky dealer and the smell of smoke did me in.

I've posted before about "first" after cancer. This was my first time really gambling. And this was the first time I could remember not having a strong urge to keep doing it. Normally, I would keep hopping from table to table to find the right one. This time, I didn't. I didn't get the rush. Didn't get the urge to win it all back. I just hung out watching others. Waited for Teresa and Rosie & Marty--who were winners so at least SOMEONE walked away with more than they came with--and took it all in. I'll dance another day. Happily.

Maybe on a beer pong table.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You're Gonna Do What?

The whole interaction between Doctor and cancer patient is a sitcom waiting to happen. (And thanks to The Big C we can start laughing a little about it).

While it didn't seem that funny at the time, I can now look back and laugh at the insertion of my feeding tube three years ago, almost to the day. I had to go through a ton of prep for my treatments--2 oral surgeries, a series of scans, consultations--and the most intrusive of them all, a feeding tube shoved into my stomach. Think of something that looks like that cable wire that connects your TV to your box or dish. Except it was blue. With a foot long clear extension from the machine to the 18 inches of blue line that went straight into my skin, through the stomach lining so I could live. I had to have that fucker in there before I could receive any chemo or radiation. And I've posted before about how NO ONE knew how it worked--except for the Doc who stuck that bastard in--after 3 shots right in my gut and 6 weeks later of shooting liquid food into my tube with a syringe. Yeah, it was a party.

I had Doctors, Nurses, the company that was administering and distributing the cans of food and Google trying to help me out to get that thing pumping into my body for 12 hours a day. No one could figure it out. I finally went back to the hospital again and found the dude who put that baby in--ya think he would of told someone? Ten long months that sucker was in. Actually, I had to have it replaced because of 2 painful at the time but funny now "incidents". My dog, Tedi, got caught in the line and started to freak out and run. SON-OF-A-BITCH did that hurt. I had to practically tackle him to make him stay put. The other time, a client got up from his chair in a meeting, slipped a little and his chair rolled over my line and he got tangled up in it. Yeah, a client. He freaked and started to run out the door––hey man, stop! He then got pissed at me. "Can't you control that thing? Why are you sitting so close?" Dude, you're the idiot that couldn't gracefully get out of your chair and wigged out.

Now, three years later, I laugh my ass off when I think of the look on his face. He never treated me well after that, which I thought was strange because I thought he was a good guy. Wrong. Oh well. (I should have opened the line and squirted some of the liquid in his seat just to see him really lose his shit). I laughed about that today. And I also remembered when the Radiation Oncologist told me they were going to have to put the tube in. I remember my 2 reactions: "you're going to do what?" and then almost blurting out loud, "no fucking way".

Thank God for my sense of humor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Sorry if the title is a little misleading. (I'm in the rant mood today).

I have little tolerance for those who think they are the only person in the world. We've seen this type of behavior in large proportions before--the 70's were called the Me Decade--and we then fell into a deep recession at the beginning of the 80's. Now I'm all about taking care of my wants and needs and living in today's world is much more exciting and full of possibilities than ever before. But c'mon people, watch what the hell you are doing and try to focus on the shit around you.

Why are my panties in such a bunch? I went to a sandwich place at off-peak hours to grab a much needed bite. There were 2 people working behind the counter, a customer sitting at a window seat, a customer standing and waiting for their sandwich and Mr. Oblivion in line in front of me. Now this dude was about my age, about my size and dressed like I was today--shirt and tie, nice slacks and Sunday shoes. (We used to call them church shoes). He proceeds to ask the robot-like employee behind the counter EVERY question about the sandwich he's ordering. Which would be fine by me IF HE JUST READ THE BIG SIGNS IN FRONT OF HIM AND TO HIS RIGHT & LEFT. (In fact, this guy looked like Bill O'Reilly, poor bastard). But this is not what got me juiced up. Mr. Oblivion backed up and bent over to look at the chips--and almost knocked me down if not for putting my hand out and backing up myself. Which would've meant putting my hand on his ass.

I said, "behind you". No response. He then did it AGAIN, this time moving back even MORE. So now I was fighting to keep his big-flat-fat-ass from getting in my face. (Think of a QB under center kind of view). Ten years ago and probably before cancer, I would have kicked him right in his brown-eye. (Hey, I already had said, "right behind you"). But I didn't. I realized where I was at--in a public place, late afternoon and dead-ass tired from three short sleeping nights. So I counted to 10--yeah, that really works--and let it go. Until this post. Thank you, interweb.

Maybe cancer has taught me to be more aware. Maybe it was growing up in LA, gangs bordering 3 sides of my neighborhood. Maybe it was my Mom & Dad teaching me to not be so self-involved and selfish. (Although I've been accused of being self-involved from some former co-workers. Anonymously, of course). Or maybe my age has something to do with this observation. But I do know for sure one thing.

I know I bumped into Mr. Oblivion for a reason.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Living To See Life

Every day I wake up is a blessing.

I was telling my friend, Kristen, that every day I walk out my front door I look up to the sky and smile. Even if it's raining, like today. Kristen is going through a tough time right now, as a close family member is battling cancer. (My prayers for you, Kristen). I related a saying my Father has spoken to me on more than one occasion--yesterday is a cancelled check, tomorrow is a promissory note and today is money in the bank--that is so very true. Because we ALL get caught up in wanting Friday to get here faster so we can start the weekend. Putting off calling a loved one who lives not-so-close to us. Take for granted how lucky we are, no matter what our financial situation or status in our jobs and life may be.

Last night, I was fortunate enough to welcome Kaleb, Grandson #4, make his grand entrance into our world. He was surrounded by love, near and far. He filled the room with hope, happiness and the miracle of birth. He looks my Adam, his Dad. (My Wife and Father both said as much). As I was looking at him--OK, fixated on him--I couldn't help but think about my own mortality. Here I was, in a hospital, with Jen hooked up via IV's and with no less than 8 other people in the room. Trying to not have flashbacks and trying to focus on the new life in front me.

I just embraced the scene. Thought of never forgetting this moment so one day I could tell Kaleb about him being born through my eyes. Watched Teresa melt. Hugged and kissed my Son. Because we sometimes forget that we come into this life with no fear--of death, disease, the unknown--and no concept of NOT enjoying the moment. Kaleb, welcome my Grandson. Kristen, enjoy the moments and time you have with those you love, who are here NOW. Life is a beautiful thing to see.

I feel fortunate to be living in the moment.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who's The Old Dude?

That would be me.

I started a new job this week and I'm sure I'm at least 10 years older than EVERYONE. Which is waaaay cool. And very inspiring. My outward appearance has been beaten down by cancer, too many 50-70 hour work weeks and Mother Nature taking it's course. But it's not what's on the outside that counts. Inside, I feel reborn. Re-energized. Ready.

I was the youngest at a small advertising agency in Los Angeles in 1981––Chiat/Day––working in the mailroom with no idea of what I wanted to do "when I grew up." It was at Chiat/Day that I met my Wife, Teresa, and began a journey that has given me so much. At the time I was 22 years old. And I had thought that any years I lived after 21 were bonus years. Why? I lived in a tough area of LA. Was only 6 years old when one of my friends died. Had friends shot and killed. Played sports with cops circling the baseball field and steel bars on the windows of the basketball gym. Played one-on-one with gang bangers so I could get home safe from the playground.

Chris, from my former job, told me that the people at my new job would adore me. Respect me for the knowledge I had that I take for granted. Admire me for my accomplishments. Accept me because of the person I am. (Thanks, Chris. You're the best). Who's the old dude? I am.

And blessed to be there.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Things We Should Say All The Time

Sorry for not posting after 100. My life has been changing at a rapid pace.

I left my job of four years last Thursday. It felt like a long good-bye. One that came with mixed emotions but a totally clear head as I walked out the door. And a big smile on my face. I'm off to a new adventure. And I haven't been this jazzed about a job in a long time. But enough of that crap. What I really did was do what I set out to do when I started out this blog––ya followin' that, because I'm writing it and I'm not so sure myself––watching how my decision, my life, my cancer effects others.

The announcement of my departure was sent by my boss. I actually just read it again––3 paragraphs, 1 about me and the other 2 about a new leader and how great my replacement will be––and it summed up the last two weeks at my previous employer. (Now Ricardo, don't think this is a dis to you. I think you're going to be great. I know it. It just struck me as another thing to write about). Which leads me to––finally––the point of this post.

When I had cancer, it seemed that it divided people I knew into three categories––those who accepted me as I had always been, those who didn't know what to say and stumbled through conversations and those who avoided me as much as possible. (Check out an earlier post I did, I Don't Know What To Say). For those who wished me well and were so happy for me, they will be with me forever. For those who stumbled through their "congratulations" and really only wanted to know "the gossip", the jury is still out if we stay in touch. For those who avoided me as much as possible, I hope you find your inner peace and truth.

The only sad part of leaving was hearing the good things I never knew people though about me. Why? Because we need to share our thoughts, feelings and positive experiences every day. We need to tell those we love them, we love them. Even if they do know it. We need to say "thank you" and "please and act like adults instead of spoiled, insecure and ignorant arrogant humans. So I leave that part of my life behind and tell you what I myself don't say enough.

Thank you. I love you. I'm a better person to have you in my life.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I made it.

When I started this blog in July 2008, I had a modest goal that I never told anyone. (Yeah, imagine me not telling anyone anything. Go ahead. Now stop smiling that "no way" smile). I wanted to get to 100 posts. Why? It would mean I would at the very least live another 100 days. Beat cancer's ass day after day after day after day.

July 20 is quite another number. The first walk on the moon, 41 years ago. Bill Singer pitching a no-hitter for the Dodgers in 1970. A game where I bought tickets for me and my Dad to go see––but he couldn't make it so I didn't go. (Still haven't seen a no-hitter live in the 1,000 games I've been to). Which brings me to another July 20 special number––my Dad's 71st birthday.

But another reason for celebration of my 100th post is that I am changing jobs. Gave my 2 weeks notice last Friday. Going to build something from scratch. It's going to be challenging. It's going to be fun. It's going to be strange going to a place where I don't know anyone except for the people I met. And it's going to be the first job I got after cancer. If only you could see the tears of joy and pride on my face. Maybe I'll take a picture and use on my next post.

If I make it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Time Flies When You're Living

It's been a great three years.

Three years ago, I was going through a maze of emotions as I was trying to figure out why I wasn't feeling well. I've posted before about this and the signs I received––the first being the voice in my head that kept asking the rest of my body, "why do I feel like I have cancer"––but looking back I'm so grateful for all that happened to keep me alive and posting. Lance Armstrong has been quoted as saying his cancer odyssey "enriched my life." That may seem strange to many people. For a fellow cancer survivor like me, it seems quite normal. Why? Because every day is more precious than the day before. More meaningful. More time to live.

I've had quite a few conversations with myself about my future lately. (C'mon, we ALL talk to ourselves. And we answer ourselves, too.). As a cancer survivor, I do not have time to waste. I'm not going to waste my time with people who don't respect me. I'm not going to waste my time wondering why I'm not perfect. I'm not going to waste my time trying to change the things I cannot change. I'm not going to waste my time trying to be something someone else wants me to be.

My friend, Cap, is one of my most loyal followers. (Means a lot to me, Cap.). Lately, we have been talking about the time we have, the time we waste and the future of our time. (It's nice to talk to someone else about this, instead of just having these conversations in my head.). We talk about the time we have with our children and all the time away from our children. We get caught up in our work––it's one of our passions––and then get caught in all the other BS that goes with it. Don't get me wrong. Being able to do what I do for a living is a gift. I am so lucky to be in the position I'm in and I thank my higher power every day.

It's time to enjoy the time I have.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Scary Thing About cancer Blogs

Being able to write about my experiences with cancer is a blessing. (No, it really is. Read on.).

Why? While all of us have to face our mortality one way or another, cancer has this dastardly way of ruining your day––because it's such a deadly disease today could be the day cancer wins over your life. No life, no posts. There are many who stop blogging because they have stopped breathing. And sometimes, they just loose interest. Run out of things to write. Move on to other endeavors. The weird thing is, how do you know?

One of the first connections with the cancer blog community––and it's a big one, people––I made was with Dennis and his blog, Being Cancer, which has been a source of inspiration and information that has really helped me. (If you peek to the right of this post and scroll down just a bit, you'll also see Being Cancer listed as one of the blogs I follow.).

Dennis "found me" and this blog and sent me an email. He wanted to feature one of my posts on his blog. Cool. Happy to do it. Share the love, pain, stories and inner-most thoughts of a cancer survivor. Hell yeah. This made me feel connected to so many people, even if I never get to "meet" them in this viral world or face-to-face. (Does that happen anymore?). But now I'm worried about Dennis. He hasn't posted in a few weeks. Dennis was diagnosed with T-PLL, a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), in 2001. Had a bone marrow transplant in 2004. And tons of other treatments and cancer-related issues since. (Visit the link above for more info.).

Now I could send Dennis an email. I could. But what if he doesn't answer? What if he can't answer? What if he never answers?

That's the scary part.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unplugged To Recharge

I know, it sounds and looks weird.

If you've noticed a lag in my posts, it's because I totally and completely unplugged––no Crackberry, no emails and only checking the scores online. I even didn't know where my phone was half the time. Not that I was keeping time or track. I was on vacation. A half stay-cation and va-cation. I had lost track of time. And that was the reason I needed to go on vacation in the first place.

I was abusing my time. Working way too much and not taking time to stop and think. Stop and love. Stop and just stop. Minutes would roll into hours that would roll into days and roll into weeks and you get the idea. I had lost track of my time and place. I had begun to ask, more than once or twice, "did I survive cancer so I could work my life away?". Now don't get me wrong. I am thankful every day I have a job. I've been on the jobless side. I love what I do for a living and feel fortunate to have the type of job I have. But there's more to life. Right?

At least 2-3 times a day while we were on vacation, Teresa and I would say "we can do whatever we want, when we want. Because we're on vacation." As if to remind ourselves we were actually taking time to just be Greg & Teresa. Time, which I have said repeatedly, is the most precious gift and greatest result from cancer. Sounds strange, I know. But I have a whole new respect for every increment of time that I learned from cancer. So I had to re-learn that my time is precious. And it's up to me to make the most of my time. And I'm much better when I'm all charged up.

Plugged or unplugged.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Catching A Vibe

I believe in a greater connection––and not the Internet––that we all share but seldom use.

What the hell am I talking about? That feeling that someone is talking about you. The feeling like you've been there, done that before. (Yeah, I know it's called deja vu. Thanks, Yogi). The feeling that comes when out of the blue, you think of someone you haven't thought of for a long time. It's been happening to me a lot lately. But yesterday when it happened, it was just really too weird.

With all the hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg, I guess that San Diego State has been rolling around my brain. I went to SDSU for 2 years. OK, I was enrolled and didn't get to class much. But it was 2 of the best years of my life. And a big part of my fun time was attributed to having a great dorm roommate, Ralph. Ralph and I hit it off from the get go. Both played hoops. Journalism majors. Loved music. And debauchery was always only a half thought away. Little did I know that Ralph had been thinking of our times at SDSU and beyond as well. (We roomed together in the "Astrodome" in South Pas, but that's another post for another time.) I found him on the interweb and sent him an email asking "is this the Ralph who" and if it was, to send me back a confirmation. This is part of what I got––after a few things he said which I will not post here for fear of having to explain some of my college misadventures to way too many people––back. "was at the hilton the night before departure and i was on the can reading about LA and there's a section on Eagle Rock...Bro..I sent the vibe two Sats ago as I sat there (lol required) and thought of the "No Mas" fight we watched in Eagle Rock....freak!!! And you have my permission to add this to your blog."

I have been smiling, laughing and shaking my head ever since yesterday. I feel like a gap in my life has been filled. The cancer disconnected a lot in my brain––as I've said before, it's called chemo brain––and working the memory muscle can be very frustrating when it doesn't work. Thanks to my brother from another mother, Ralph, I'm starting to put together some more pieces in my brain. And will undoubtedly get back to California and see if we can meet in the middle, as he now lives in NoCal and my family is in SoCal.

Ralph, thanks for the vibe. I really needed it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Than Baseball

After celebrating life all weekend––Wife's and Son's birthdays, respectively––the other side of the life chain takes place tonight.

Tonight, I will pay my respects to Mark Fisher. Mark passed away Memorial Day weekend from cancer. I didn't get a chance to say good-bye to Mark, as I had just found out he was fighting the disease only a few days before. I was also fighting a nasty virus and didn't want to go see him and get him any worse. I now regret that decision.

I coached baseball with Mark for 3 years. That's a lot time. We also sat in the stands for another 4 years, watching our Sons play for the high school team. That seemed like an eternity. And he and his Wife, Roberta, would come and join us at our Annual Halloween Party. But as I look back, it was not enough time. You see, we spent an awful lot of time together, going over baseball strategy, working on new drills for practice to keep the boys from getting bored and asking each other to talk to each other's Son. We found that we could get our Boys to get better––as a player and a person––if they heard it from someone else as well as ourselves. And it worked. Worked very well. Little did we know we both would "get" cancer.

This is a tough loss for me for many reasons. I feel for Roberta, Tim and Bob. Good family and friends. I feel for all those––family and friends––who will miss Mark. And I feel blessed, as strange as that my seem. Because I survived cancer, well enough to be able to write down my thoughts for whomever to see. I'm extremely lucky to have a family that loves me and cares for me. And when I see another friend lose the battle to cancer, I can't help but think of my own mortality and place in life. Yes, it's more than baseball that brought us together.

Forever, we will be bonded by a killer disease. RIP, Captain Fisher.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick

Once you've had cancer–-at least for me––getting sick takes on another life.

You get paranoid. You get a little scared. You get impatient. And I get to show everyone the asshole that grows inside of me when I don't feel well and haven't slept. I'm now on Day 6 of being sick. And it's Memorial Day Weekend. I should be grillin' and chillin'. I'm sick and tired of being sick.

This started out as a slight rawness in the back of my throat. Since the head & neck cancer, any little thing that messes with my throat gives me flashbacks and feelings of "oh shit, what's this?". So I went to a GP Doctor on Friday––my regular Doc was busy and couldn't fit me in––and saw another Doc in the practice who has treated me before. Now I'm not saying she's not good or I don't like her. She's just not MY Doc, know what I mean? After waiting 25 minutes past the appointment time––another post for another time––I get in. After I tell the nurse everything, I have to go through it again with the Doctor. (So explain to me the reason why they have these little computers that call up all your information?)

Diagnosis? Sore throat. Headache. Aches and pain. Running eyes. No energy. No fever. I could have told them that. I did, in fact. "Must be a simple virus." There are no simple virus' as far as I'm concerned. The HPV virus is what gave me cancer. A simple virus? This only made me more cranky. And have to swallow a horse pill every 12 hours for the next 10 days.

Makes me even more sick and tired.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clearing My Throat

Sometimes I think ENT stands for "Every New Technology" that gets shoved up my nose or down my throat. And please, please, please get your finger out of my ear––you're tickling what's left of my brain.

Last week I went for my check-up as a result of head & neck cancer. Dr. Lee is really very good and actually takes her time with me now that she's been intimate with my head and neck. And quite frankly, after a week at work where I was getting other things shoved into my body that I didn't enjoy, this was a piece of cake. (I'll take a tube up my nose, a rubber finger shoved in my mouth and having my tongue jerked around over a bad week at work any day).

I did have to wait for over an hour to see the Doctor. She was running late––as usual––and I took this opportunity to escape from my Blackberry and the chaos at work for a little power nap. (Woke myself up snoring). So while it tried my patience, I did get some rest and time to chill.

Once I got in the chair, I waited another 20 minutes. This time, I just stared out the window. Which gave me a chance to appreciate the fact that I was actually ABLE to stare out the window almost 3 years after being diagnosed with cancer. This must have been God's way of giving a slap in the face and remind myself that I have a great life and am very blessed with a wonderful, loving family. I'm sometimes forget what's really important in life. I care so much about too many things. And I forget I have to take care of myself and my happiness first.

Dr. Lee comes knocking herself into the room and says, "I'm so sorry to keep you waiting." I tell her I understand the desire to fit 26 hours into a 24 day. And she breaks into a big smile and we chat about why in the world we work so hard all the time. After shoving, tugging and pulling on my ENT, she pulls the gloves off and gets an even bigger smile, when she says, "I think I don't want to see you for a year. Everything looks great." I tell her I'm going to miss her and she says, "that's a good thing." I get out of the chair. Pay my co-pay. Head out the door. And have to clear my throat for fear of crying for joy out in public.

See ya next year, Doc.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back In The Swing Of Things

Life after cancer is filled with milestones. Some are momentous. Some seem ordinary to everyone but a survivor. Some are so special in a personal and delightful way. (Did I just use the word "delightful"?)

I played softball for my company team, Ogilvy, on Monday. I waited to post about it until 2 days after, which usually is a good "soreness" barometer when you haven't used muscles since the last decade. After a forfeit win and 2 consecutive rain outs, we finally got to take the field. Now I describe this softball league as a rung below a Beer League, since there are no kegs at 2nd base or umpires to yell, er, talk to during the game. But hey, pride is big motivator when you're playing other companies in your professional field. Not much, but it's there for some.

I started to realize before the season began that I hadn't played an organized sport since August 7, 2007. The day of my head & neck cancer diagnosis. Almost 3 years. And so far removed from where I was before cancer––I was a college athlete and had played or coached in organized sports for over 40 years. But this was foreign to me. I felt like a rookie. Not only was I coming back from cancer, I was running away from Father Time. The mind says, "hell yeah, you can stretch that single into a double!" The body says, "think again, butthead. Not while I'm here."

I'm happy to report that two days later I can comb my hair without pain, walk up and down the street on my own power and haven't been swallowing Advil like a kid with Halloween candy. We won, 21-4, had a great time doing it and I'm even thinking of playing next week––I will be wearing cleats, since I have no concept of taking it slow and easy when playing sports––if time allows. I wouldn't say I swung the bat like I used to.

But then again, I wasn't coming back from cancer.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Stream of consciousness. Inspired by a night with other survivors.

Why did cancer happen to me?
Why did I survive?
Why don't people understand the change in me?
Why isn't there a cure?
Why do insurance companies deny my insurance randomly?
Why am I more emotional than before cancer?
Why do I take the things I love for granted?
Why do I sometimes take the people I love for granted?
Why can't I sleep more than 4 hours at a time?
Why do 1.5 million people every year live with cancer?
Why don't caregivers get more credit for all they do?
Why do I wonder when cancer will show up somewhere in or on my body?
Why don't I get a less stressful job?
Why do people take me for granted?
Why can't people in general be less judgmental?
Why was it that I only could taste cinnamon and corn during radiation and chemo?
Why do I still have a hole in my stomach from where my feeding tube was stuck in my body?
Why is chemo brain soooooo loooooooooooonnnnnnnngggggg?
Why does ice cream have a different taste to me now?
Why can't I make all the voices I did before the cancer?
Why do I love watching my Grandsons play baseball, instead of me coaching them on the filed?
Why do I keep asking why?
Why can't I just accept and move forward?
Why did it take me 2 weeks to post?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I've been in the most interesting state of mind I can remember in a long time.

Why? I have many thoughts, feelings, emotions and causes. And therein lies the issue, problem, situation and state of mind in itself. I'm a little over 2 years removed from my last chemo treatment and radiation. And since then I've had multiple gall bladder attacks that lead to removal and a myriad of physical crap that keeps me guessing. Is it the "side effects"? Is it stress? Is it my job? Is it all in my mind?

They don't tell you a lot of stuff when you are going through cancer treatment. And especially since my head & neck cancer is/was an unusual case––clinically the result of excessive alcohol & tobacco use and mostly found in people over 50––and has since been used as part of a study of the HPV virus and cancer in men. My cancer was in my tonsils, caused by HPV. Yeah, really.

So, is the scrambledness in my brain a result of chemo? Damn straight. How much? Who the hell knows. Is the fact that I wake-up every night, choking on my tongue because it's stuck to the back of my mouth/beginning of my throat part of the problem? Hell fucking yeah. Is my tolerance level of passive aggressive, know-it-all, sneaky-backstabbing people extremely low? Bet your life on it. But how do you explain all the crap that goes through your head, plays tricks with your body and generally has no road map for recovery or clinical explanation to those who are on the receiving end of you being an asshole? You can't. But I can explain one thing.

I am a survivor. A cansurvivor. Peace.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

In Your Own World

"How come none of you all ask me why I curl me hair?"

About 2 feet away, while I was having lunch with my Daughter Kaity in DC, this is what some dude screamed out to a crowded restaurant. He was glassy-eyed, loud and popped in and out just as fast as he could ask that question.

The restaurant froze for a second. I grabbed my knife––growing up in LA, I guess––and watched every move he was making. Watching his hands. Watching his eyes. Watching my Daughter. It didn't phase Kaity. In fact, she just laughed as he walked out of the door he came in. The wait staff didn't move towards him or say anything to us after he left. I told Kaity, "welcome to DC."

I didn't think about that surreal moment until I started my 26 mile drive home that night. This dude was totally and completely in his own world. He had something on his mind and he was going to share. Probably didn't have anyone to share with, is my guess. Probably didn't have a blog like me. Probably living on the streets. (I did that for 6 months in LA in the '80's).

Escaping to a quiet place––through meditation, in your bedroom, in a middle of a party––is one of the things that helped me deal with cancer. I would "zone out" so I could focus on me. So I would feel the pain from chemo. Feel the radiation burning my skin. Feel myself fighting for my life. Why? Because I didn't want to forget. I wanted to tell anyone who would listen, that cancer is NOT a death sentence. It is not the end of your life. You have today to live. Live it.

Even if it's in your own world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mmm, Barium

Today I had a CT scan. Which means lots of prep––no eating 6 hours before, no liquids––and choking down two bottles of barium.

If you have never drank barium, consider yourself lucky. I did get to try the new––star burst goes here––orange flavor, which is used to mask the flavor of liquid chalk. My options were banana, berry and original and the new and improved––bigger star burst goes here––orange. Drink one bottle up 2 hours before the test, 1/2 of another bottle a half an hour before the test and the other 1/2 of the bottle at the radiation facility. De-lish. Yum. Tasty.

Now let me explain a few things––technically these are called side effects––that have happened since head & neck cancer decided to invade my body. I have about 30% of my saliva producing abilities, the radiation destroying my salivary glands. My taste buds are an adventure. Sometimes things taste normal, sometimes I taste the ingredients of what I'm eating––I can break down ketchup into vinegar, salt, tomato paste, Red Dye #5––and ice cream is mostly disappointing now. (Yeah, I know. It sucks). My sense of smell, however, is stronger than ever. Supposedly, there's a explainable reason for that. And the barium did it's own little dance with my nose, mouth, throat and stomach.

The only good thing was the barium is a liquid. And since I can't produce enough saliva and I couldn't drink any water before the CT scan, chalky smooth barium provided a little relief from dry lips, a dry mouth & throat and kept my tongue from sticking to the roof of my mouth. Yummy.

My CT scan was scheduled for 3pm and I was to arrive 15 minutes earlier. I had to hand in my paper work, which included signing a waiver that stated I understood that the contrast they would inject in my body could cause severe complications or reactions, with odds posted that 1 in 100,000 people have reactions ranging from convulsions to even fatal consequences due to allergic reactions. Yeah, fun. I've had the contrast numerous times and always have fun stuff happen like severe headaches, stomach problems and a rash on my arm from the injection. Like I said, fun.

But that was nothing compared to the "fight" I had once I arrived. Kimmi, the receptionist, informed me that my insurance––that is another blog post for another day––denied my full body scan. That I would only get my head, neck and chest scanned. Not my stomach and pelvis. WTF? I told Kimmi I confirmed yesterday that everything was approved. She asked me who told me that. I told her you guys did. She said when did you call. I said yesterday. She said, "are you sure you talked to someone here." No bitch, I talked to the psychic hot line and they told me it was approved. (OK, I didn't say that. But I did on the inside). I then showed her on my cell phone that I called at 2:48pm, March 23rd and talked for 5 minutes. OK, 4 minutes and 55 seconds. And your office told me everything was approved. BECAUSE I SPECIFICALLY ASKED ABOUT THE STOMACH AND PELVIS. I had already postponed the CT scan once because I didn't have approval. Well, Kimmi wasn't going to budge and kept repeating herself over and over that it wasn't approved and who did I talk to. I talked to you guys!!!!!! I finally talked to the supervisor, who said that it was denied and my Doctor agreed to just the head/neck/chest.

Fucking great. I just drank a bottle and a half of chalky shit for nothing. Oh, I'm sorry. I got something out of it––an hour on the toilet and stomach cramps for the rest of the night. And tasty, new and improved––yeah, star burst goes here––orange barium.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The N Word(s)

Now before you go all freaky on me, the headline is not what you think as it relates to our society and culture.

I'm talking about 3 n words that have taken on new meaning in my life since I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer––never, normal, now.

Never is an awful word. (I often think of the song, "The 12th of Never", when I hear that word). As in, "I never want to see you again." Never mind. Never, ever. Never in a million years. Never be a superstar. Such a negative word. Until you utter to yourself, "I never want to get cancer. Again."

Normal is a strange word. Normal can be good or bad. Everything is normal––is that good or bad? Normal temperature. We even shorten the word––that's the "social norm". And then there's the cancer version––when will I get back to normal? Hell, after cancer, normal takes on an entirely new meaning. For me, it's normal to choke and/or cough because I can't produce enough saliva due to the cancer treatments. This usually happens 2-3 times a day, especially when I'm eating or drinking. And because I cannot produce enough saliva, I'm drinking constantly during the day & night. (I wake up 2-3 times a night to peel the tongue off the roof or side of my mouth with a sip of water).

Now has become my favorite word. Now is the best time to do something. Anything. Everything. There's no better time than NOW. Now is ALL we actually have––I believe that's what they mean when they say, "live in the moment". I try to enjoy now, because I might not have tomorrow. At the moment, I'm enjoying "now" because tomorrow I'll get a needle in my arm to draw blood at my Oconologist. I hate needles. But I love to live.

Now is the perfect time to live.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Snap Out Of It

I've been in a funk for weeks.

I'm over-thinking things. I'm too emotional. I'm doing too much. I'm letting work consume my every waking moment and creep into my dreams. And in many ways, I can't help myself. Because I'm overdoing it all. And because of that, I'm not accomplishing anything. Am I depressed? Going crazy? Burnt toast?

I am fortunate enough to get paid for what I think. My mind is my hammer, my computer, my co-worker, my instrument. So when my mind is not right, everything else seems to suffer. And that scares me. I need to get focused. Re-center myself. Keep my ass from dragging on the floor. I know all this. I know it will pass. I know I'm human. I know this is part of my ongoing recovery from cancer. I'm just having a hard time snapping out of it. And yet I'm very accepting of the fact that every day can't be a bed of tulips. (I know it's a "bed of roses", but roses have thorns). And sorry to all of you who have had to put up with me during this time.

For me, this is what has happened during my recovery many times. Usually, I have been able to step back and be extremely thankful for being alive and that gives me the juice to get outta the funk. The mental recovery in many ways is much more difficult that the physical recovery from cancer. My life has been changed forever. And I am extremely thankful for that. I'm a better person––I hope. I'm much more patient. I'm much more expressive of my feelings––sorry to those who just said out loud, "oh great. Greg being more expressive is like being blasted with two fire hoses instead of one." I have discovered a writing outlet that now inspires me. So excuse me while I talk to myself in front of you.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Know What It Feels Like

When I heard that Denver Nuggets Head Coach, George Karl, was diagnosed with cancer again I was shocked. Especially when they reported it was "head & throat" cancer.

I had head & neck cancer. So was this different? Did he mean head & neck? Why was I concerned whether it was head & throat instead of head & neck? I then saw an interview over the weekend that Coach Karl did for the NBA on ABC. And it hit me. He was asked how he felt. I didn't listen. Or need to listen. I knew what he was going to say. I knew he had cancer before. I know what its like to hear the "c" word after you think, believe, trust that you will never hear that word attached to your name. I know, Coach. I feel you.

I hadn't thought of my cancer much in the weeks leading up to when I heard the news of Coach Karl. My friend at work, Matt, told me it would be this way 2 years ago, that I "wouldn't think about cancer every day like you do now". He was right. But the news of someone else I "know" having the same type of cancer I did really hit me hard. I didn't tell anyone. Because I'm not sure anyone would understand. Unless you've had cancer. (This always makes me think of the Harley-Davidson theme, "If I have to explain it you, you wouldn't understand.")

I will never forget the look in Coach Karl's eyes when he was telling us his feelings about being diagnosed. I saw the uncertainty. The million thoughts. The immediate struggle of being invincible and human at the same time.

I know, Coach. I feel you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Get Back In The Car

Last Friday I had a "situation" while driving through the unplowed and crowded streets of Washington, DC. First, let me say if this happened before cancer, I would be writing this from a jail cell. (Actually, moron, if you were in a cell you wouldn't have Internet access. Excuse me, but this is where I'm talking to myself, not you the reader).

I was inching along one of our streets around 6:30-6:45 pm. Traffic was a bitch-and-a-half. I knew I was in for a long drive home––longer than the 26 miles I usually drive home from work, which takes me 35-45 minutes on a clear traffic day. (Like that ever happens). The driver behind me decides that he wants to drive my car, too, so he's honking his horn for me to move up. Now let me give you a visual here. I'm in the middle lane, with snow potholes, 6-inch ice spikes and water running down the 10-15% incline we're all trying to get away from. I have a manual transmission car in front of me––I know this because every time we inch up, he slide back a little––so I'm giving him a foot or so to get in gear. Literally.

This dude behind me decides he's going to honk his horn at me. Not once. Not twice. But three times. After the 3rd blowing, I throw my hands up in the air to tell him "I hear you, stop it." No, I didn't flip him the bird. Or any other hand gesture that would suggest a profanity. Just a "back off" gesture. As I grab my water bottle to generate some saliva for me constant dry mouth––thanks, cancer!––I hear a tap on my window. It was the dude in the car behind me––he got out of his car. Where I come from––Northeast LA and parts nearby––this is a signal that you're either gonna try to kick my ass or get yours kicked. Dude tells me, "we are both gentlemen here. Why do you raise your hand to me?" I tell him, "don't honk your horn at me, please. There is nowhere to go." He says, "I've been trying to get somewhere for over 2 hours and I'm almost out of gas." I said, "Don't honk your horn at me and get back in your car." He says, "don't raise your hand to me." I open my car door, get out and he has this "oh shit, this guy is so much bigger than me" look on his face. I tell him, "get back in your car. Don't honk your horn again at me." I hear from the street, "hey man, you better get back in the car like he says."

Now, before cancer, I would have tried to knock that dude on his ass. But I didn't. One of the positive side effects from cancer has been an increase in my tolerance level. I don't get so angry so quick anymore. I see the funny side of things. I understand that there are people more messed up than me :) I know that an altercation––I haven't had a fight since I took martial arts 30 years ago––doesn't really solve anything. Most of the time. Gotta go now.

I have to get back in my car.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Angels In Richmond

Recently, I made a trip to Richmond for work.

I spent the day with some very special people at the VA Hospital, from administrators to patients. It was an emotional roller coaster kind of day, for me. And I knew it would be, as I was somewhat dreading the trip because I was uncertain of how I would be able to handle it. The patients are the men and women who sacrifice so much to keep our country free and allow us to live a life we choose to live, not have a way of life forced on us. And these are 18-25 year olds, for the most part. These are people who are my kids age. These people are veterans and they are barley legal to buy alcohol. These young men and women are nothing short of amazing.

The Doctors at the VA are phenomenal. They are caring, kind, dedicated and emotionally and spiritually invested in the lives of our young people. The nursing staff is incredible. And I know a thing or two about hospitals, doctors, nurses and the support staff. I was at one hospital so much, the nurses called me "Mel", after the actor Mel Gibson. (People say I look like him, but only when Mel and I are sober). So besides having an understanding the inner workings of a hospital, I can feel the vibe of the place even more so. And this was what I was afraid of, having a million emotions and thoughts fly in and out of my being. There were times I had to compose myself. Several times, actually.

Why? These patients are fighting for their lives––at the very least, fighting to regain some form of normalcy in their lives after being injured in combat. They will never be "normal" again. And that's what we all want when we have an illness, injury or disease. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us––Moms, Dads, Wives, Kids, BFF's and Co-workers. And that's where the definition of "normal" changes. I know. My normal after cancer is waaaay different from my normal before cancer. cancer leaves damage along the way, just as an IED does. It can go off at a moments notice and you're then left to pick-up the pieces––if it doesn't kill you first.

So I was amazed at the positive vibe I got, from the person at the front desk to the Medical Director of Polytrauma, Dr. Shane McNamee. These people were so impressive, hopeful and most of all caring. They made me feel great. They made me understand that what they are doing isn't special, it's the right thing to do. On the way down, I kept wondering why I was feeling so emotional. Now I know why.

I was getting to see angels, without having to leave Earth.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I was at the office late one night, trying to manage the day and the days that lie ahead. And I was pissed beyond belief.

John Bell, my next door office neighbor and avid supporter in my fight against cancer, saw me as he was heading out the door and stopped. "What are you still doing here? You should be going home, right?" I must have gave him a look that made him stop. Or perhaps he knew that I was not having a good day. He was right. I wasn't having a good day. And it was because for the umpteenth time, I felt disrespected at work.

You can hate me, call me names and generally just don't like me. But when I'm not respected, that gets my blood boiling. Why? Because I was brought up to respect people. For who they are. For the work they do. For how they have to live their lives in order to get through their day. We all have our quirks, our issues and problems. We all are different in some way. And that's more than OK. It's life.

Now John and I don't always see eye-to-eye. But ever since the day he hired me, he has respected my opinion and dedication to making the work better every day. And most of all, he respects me as a person, a human being. He's one of the smartest people I know and at the same time somewhat enigmatic. But he has a good heart and a good soul. I'll never forget when I told him I thought I had cancer. He said, "Nah, it's just probably something else related to all the crazy hours you've been putting." He was just trying to ease my mind. And he was right. All the crazy hours lead to extra stress, which is a bad trigger to your immune system.

And here I was, letting the stress and the actions of others get to me because of how I was treated. I was feeling that I didn't survive cancer to work my life away and have people dis me. I was feeling my purpose in life being twisted. I was feeling like I did before I had cancer. And that scared me. I guess there's only one thing to do––don't let others control how I feel.

And respect the fact that I'm alive.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hey, Who Cut Your Hair?

I laughed my ass off the first time I heard Cheech & Chong do this routine. (I was 14).

I remember me and my friends would channel Cheech & Chong whenever we saw someone who just got a haircut. We would just bag on (that was our word for making fun of someone) the poor dude who got a haircut. Of course, the worst was, "hey, who cut your hair. Your old lady? Your Mom?" (I think a few blows came out of that one, once or twice). And this was the '70's, so there was no such thing as PC, no PDA's, security checks and all the things school kids face today. It was merciless, unabashed, "your mama" jokes, out-in-the-open taunts––all in good fun. No, really.

So when I cut my hair last Sunday (or should I say when Teresa cut my hair) I thought about the main reason I had grown it past the middle of my back––to donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that takes hair donations and makes wigs for kids who have lost their hair due to cancer. Teresa even asked me twice if wanted her to cut it. Twice I said yes. This was the least I could do for those children who have to face every day at school, at the mall and at the mirror without their hair.

When I would wait for my radiation treatments, I would see a few kids who were also in treatment. I'd talk to them or their parents. Ask them how they felt. How did it feel without the hair. Tell them I was losing my hair, too. Just not as much. But I could feel their pain of having been teased or called "baldy" or "skinhead" or "scully." And I decided right then and there if I survived cancer––actually, when I beat cancer––I would grow my hair so some little dude or girl could not have to worry about some kid asking, "hey, what happened to your hair." So when I had 10 inches of hair to donate––I donated over 10––and Teresa was cutting it and cutting last week, I was smiling. Because it felt so good inside to do this simple little act. And because I could hear rattling in my head, Cheech & Chong, saying "hey, who cut your hair?"

My ol' lady did.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Sometimes I think Dads don't get enough credit. (Yeah, I'm a Dad).

But that doesn't make me a deadbeat. An absentee. A weekend Dad. All not very nice, but well publicized. It makes good headlines, I guess. And there's a difference between being a Dad and being a Father. Anyone can be a Father. Not everyone is a Dad.

I listened to a friend today talk about his Dad. In front of a packed house. He talked about the one theme that keeps popping up in my blog. Time. The one thing we can't get enough of. That we can't change––OK, daylight savings excluded––no matter how many things we do to our body. He talked about spending time with his Dad. He talked about the time he's going to miss. He talked about a good Dad. He was probably a great Dad.

I think we sometimes forget Dads are human. Just like Moms. I've always believed that you're really an adult when you realize your parents are human. They make mistakes. They don't know everything. They have fun. (I'll leave it at that. I can hear Kaity ringing the therapy cash register). And we Dads do screw up all the time. We don't have an instruction book. Not that we would read it, anyway. So we're making most of this shit up as we go along. Then we learn what works and doesn't work and go from there. Some scary stuff, huh?

But that's OK. Because we Dads come in all sizes, colors, shapes, price ranges and geographic regions. And we are tough. My Dad has had more close encounters of the death kind than any human should have. From heart attacks to cancer. So every time I talk to him, I want to make sure it's a good one. Good Dads are hard to come by.

So they say.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Looking Forward

This time of year, we see a lot of lists.

Best music of the decade––according to Rolling Stone Magazine. Best play of the year. Worst movies. Best this, worst that. C'mon, do we really need anyone to tell us what is best or worst? So, to jump on the bandwagon––or at least in front of it––I decided to leave all the old and past pleasures alone and look ahead to 2010. Here's what I'd like to see, I'm going to see and see how the hell I'm going to get all these things done before the new New Year.

Spend more time with my Wife.
Spend more time with my kids, Adam, Ryan, Travis and Kaity.
Spend more time with Lucky & Eli.
Write more. About stuff I like. In any format. Style. Any subject. Whenever I get the urge.
Inner peace. Really. I'm not kidding. It's gonna happen. Soon.
More time for me.
Be nicer to people I love.
Be nicer to people I work with. At least once.
Smile more.
Cry while laughing. (It's the best).
Tell people I appreciate them.
Clarity. On anything. At least once.
Volunteer. More.
Learn something new every day.
The smell of cut grass.
Celebrating birthdays. Especially my own.
Have a heart to heart talk with God. At least once.
A clean PET scan, so I'm cancer free.
Cry while laughing. (It's still the best).

Yeah, that should take all year. But it should also take place every day, right? So what's next?

Looking forward to accomplish the list above.